Design is a way of instant communication with the audience. The time to interest the user is getting shorter. For instance, according to the 2022 Digital Experience Benchmark Report, the average user spent 55 seconds on each website page during their visit in 2021. What they see in the first few seconds of looking at your design will decide their next steps. Scroll down or follow the link?
One of the proven, effective ways to influence the user through design is through contrast. Generally speaking, this is a sharp difference between two or more elements of a composition based on different characteristics. This article will discuss why contrast is essential in graphic design and how to use it.
At Arounda, we offer various services, from website design to full-fledged branding, using only effective methods. Our clients get well-balanced results that capture attention and drive users to action. That's why we decided to share our experience and tell you how to implement one of the fundamental tools. Let’s discover how to use contrast in graphic design.
In a broad sense, contrast is any difference between visual components. In the field of graphic design, effective contrast is a difference that is visible to the human eye. Black-white, big-small, round-sharp. These are the simplest examples of contrast in graphic design.
This method requires a certain degree of difference between the elements. It should be sufficient for quick perception by the human eye but not too noticeable. Hyperbolized contrast begins to work oppositely - not to emphasize what is essential, but to absorb all the user's attention, destroy the composition, and ultimately lose effectiveness.
There are several main types of this tool. They depend on the elements between which there is a difference. Here are some ways how is contrast used in the design.
When we hear "contrast," a sharp color difference is the first association. Contrasting shades is the simplest way to draw attention to the created design. But don't stop at black and white. Choose one of the color schemes and work within it, mixing different shades in the same design. A complementary set is best for creating contrast. If you don't want to risk it, choose a split-complementary or analog color scheme.
Another effective way to create graphic design contrast is to compare different shapes. If the composition is dominated by sharp, strict elements (rectangles, triangles), complement them with something soft (circles, free shapes). Thus, the composition will look deeper and heterogeneous, and the contrast will draw attention to the desired part of the design.
Dimensions are the primary way to control the user's eye. Naturally, we perceive the largest font or figure as significant and worthy of attention. This will be the first thing the user notices. A slightly smaller element will follow, regardless of location. The remaining text blocks or elements will be noticed next. In this type of contrast, your main goal is not to overdo it and not turn the composition into a fight for the user's attention. Two highlights are enough.
You should not use a lot of fonts in one design. But you can achieve the contrast of this part of the composition by applying the previously listed methods. Choose a font and play with adding its options – bold, italic, and regular. The principle of color contrast works well with typography, making the design less boring. If the color palette is limited or monochrome – choose a size difference. This way, you can make an accent where necessary without using the second font.
Various textures in design have not lost their relevance for several seasons. This is also one of the types of contrast. Textures are responsible for the mood of the design and the general feeling of the finished composition. Accordingly, by creating a contrast between these elements, you compare moods and emotions, not just a visual product.
If it is impossible to work with color and textures, use different directions in your design. Combine vertical, horizontal, diagonal, and radial lines of text and other elements. Such a contrast adds dynamics to the composition, and the elements acquire a new character. Horizontal - static, reliable, monumental. Vertical - temporary, open to interaction and change. Radial - light, additional. Diagonal - dynamic, sharp.
We have already talked about contrast as a way of drawing attention to a design element. But this method has many other important functions. Here are a few reasons why you should add contrast to your design:
Improves readability. When the principle of contrast is applied in typography, all text elements are perceived more easily and logically. The perfect font size or color creates a consistency that improves the readability of even long texts.
Forms a hierarchy. The big-small or dark-light principles help maintain a visual hierarchy that reflects the immediate importance of a design element. Thus, the composition does not become chaotic but exists within a clear structure.
Highlights the main. Contrast emphasizes what's important from all the information you're conveying with your design. Helps the user not get lost and stay interested.
Adds depth. Homogeneous designs get boring after five words. Contrast differs but does not negate. This adds life, depth, and sensuality to the composition.
Using complementary colors or adding small and large fonts are basic ways of working with contrast. If you are ready to go further and try new methods, here are some tips.
Who said you should only use one type of contrast at a time? If you have tried all possible tools, challenge yourself to combine them in one unexpected object. It can be a black cube with a glossy surface among rounded fonts, soft-colored balls, and concave chaotic typography. The main goal is to add something opposite.
We wrote about visual weight here. This phenomenon determines how noticeable an element is within the design. Accordingly, how important it will be perceived by the user. Always analyze your attempts to add contrast against the elements' visual weight, sense of balance, and hierarchy.
Font contrast is not only about size and color. The hierarchy of typographic elements is also determined by their alignment and spacing. Use space between design pieces as another way to contrast them. Separate the most important text with more white space and wide character placement.
To create an effective design for any product, you need more than one tool. But contrast is a principle of combining parts of a composition that cannot be dispensed with. You can contrast fonts, colors, textures, sizes, and even directions. The main goal is not to disturb the balance and not allow chaos. The contrast will help you create a hierarchy within the design, highlight the main points, and improve text readability and perception.
Arounda uses the best tools when working on designs for its clients. Branding, sites, products - everything is created by an experienced team whose priority is the effectiveness of each visual and textual element. If you want a design that works, a product strategy, an app, or website development, contact us.
You can apply contrast to any part of the design. It can be contrasting colors, sizes, textures, fonts, or shapes.
Effective contrast is the use of several of its types at once. Create an element that differentiates itself from the rest of the design in two or three ways. Do not forget about composition and balance!
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